Who's a Bigger Menace: Rush Limbaugh or Patrick Kennedy?

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A reader who objected to my recent column about Rush Limbaugh and Richard Paey writes:

Can't wait to read your first column condemning the special treatment Patrick [Kennedy] received [from] the police and calling for a 25 year imprisonment [a la] poor Mr. Paey. Do you think that the DC DA will hold a press conference and announce that doctor shopping is being investigated and that he will demand Patrick's medical records to determine the source and quantity of the drugs? Should the MSM media, print and TV, echo the accusations on front pages and in prime time? Will they? Or will Patrick get a pass? Will liberal hypocrisy win out?

The short answer is yes, I guess. Doesn't liberal hypocrisy always win out?

But to clarify my own position: I did not say Limbaugh belonged in prison. I said neither he nor Richard Paey did, and I expressed the (probably vain) hope that the talk radio host's brush with the war on drugs would lead him to spend some air time criticizing it and speaking out on behalf of its other victims.

Be that as it may, what Patrick Kennedy did last week was worse, in terms of its potential impact on other people, than anything Rush Limbaugh has been accused of. The Rhode Island congressman initially blamed his car accident—in which he drove carelessly, nearly collided head-on with a police car, and crashed into a traffic barrier near the Capitol in the wee hours of the morning—on a combination of the sleep medication Ambien and the antihistamine Phenergan, which he said he'd been prescribed for gastrointestinal symptoms. Later he announced that he was re-entering treatment for addiction to painkillers, which suggested he also was under the influence of narcotics at the time of the crash. He denied drinking that night, but at least one witness contradicted him. In short, his behavior was reckless and put other people in danger, and there's little question that someone who was not a member of Congress would have faced charges as a result.

By contrast, Limbaugh's drug use did not (so far as I know) get him into any car crashes, and he was highly productive during the period when he was popping hydrocodone and oxycodone. I don't know whether Kennedy's narcotic habit impaired his productivity, but if it did it the rest of us probably can count that as a blessing. In any case, I'd say Kennedy's actions made him an appropriate target of law enforcement, whereas Limbaugh's did not.

Having said that, I would be surprised to hear that Kennedy has ever recommended the routine incarceration of drug users, as Limbaugh has, although I'm sure the congressman supports drug prohibition generally. Those who say Limbaugh's critics keep harping on decade-old comments have a point: Drug policy has never been a big issue for Limbaugh. But if Limbaugh's views about the war on drugs have changed in recent years, why has he never bothered to mention it? His recent comment about medical marijuana suggests his sympathies are still with the drug warriors, and unless he says otherwise that remains a fair assumption.

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  1. Yeah, and I suppose Limbaugh never drove on his poor man’s heroine, right?

    LOL

    JMJ

  2. Don’t you mean “WHO’S a bigger menace…?”

  3. “the MSM media” — is that like an “ATM machine”?

  4. poor man’s heroine

    Would that be Minnie Driver? Melanie Griffith? Jennifer Jason Leigh?

    And oxycontin is considerably more expensive than heroin, btw.

  5. The war between liberal hypocrisy and conservative hypocrisy HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN!!!

  6. I secretly delight in mocking people’s spelling and grammar, but I’m afraid of having the tables turned on me. So I won’t call any attention to the headline. No sir. None.

  7. Wait a minute, is there even the slightest shred of evidence that Kennedy acquired even a single pill illegally?

    As I recall, there were several hundred thousand units of pills found in Limbaughs house. That’s a pretty significant difference?

    And while we’ve got a witness stating that he saw Kennedy drinking, this would hardly be the first time someone has made a false accusation against a Kennedy.

    And how, exactly, does it make it worse if his altered state came from bourbon instead of the narcotics he’s admitting he is addicted to?

    That said, if you’re a United States Congressman, and you put out a press release saying that you’re going into rehab for narcotic abuse, that press release really should contain an announcement of your resignation. He can’t do his job right now. Good luck, maybe we’ll see you again in ten years if you get your act together, Congressman.

  8. Jesse,

    I think it’s like PIN number.

  9. Good luck, maybe we’ll see you again in ten years if you get your act together, Congressman.

    Well, joe, the people in Kennedy’s district will get to decide in November. And as far as I’m concerned that is where this matter needs to ultimately be decided.

    Although given the apparently supernatural powers of the Kennedy name it is likely the voters will not decide wisely.

  10. The bigger menace is the one less likely to come to realize the war on drugs, not the drugs, is causing the harm.
    In my opinion, both these subjects have equally thick skulls.
    For fun, let’s pick another two for comparison.

  11. Maybe we can have both of them go for a seaside drive with Ted Kennedy?

  12. Chris: Thanks. I’ve fixed the headline.

  13. “Wait a minute, is there even the slightest shred of evidence that Kennedy acquired even a single pill illegally?

    As I recall, there were several hundred thousand units of pills found in Limbaughs house. That’s a pretty significant difference?”

    I don’t see the difference as being significant, or even pertinent to this case—unless, of course, you happen to agree with the imbicile laws that limit the amount of painkillers you can keep in your possession.

    Discounting those foolish laws, look at it instead through a logical lens, joe: Let’s say 2 guys get arrested for drunk driving. Drunk #1 mowed down 2 people and smashed into a house. Drunk #2 didn’t hurt anyone, but got caught because his taillight was out and the cop smelled booze on his breath. Drunk #1 had gotten his booze fix from the local 7-11 that night. Drunk #2, however, had an “illicit stash” in his basement—cases and cases of beer and wine.

    Now, are you going to actually try to tell me that drunk #2 is worse because he had a stash of booze at home? Take off your partisan blinders.

    “And how, exactly, does it make it worse if his altered state came from bourbon instead of the narcotics he’s admitting he is addicted to?”

    That’s not the point—the point is that he got out of having to give a breath test by claiming that he was on prescription drugs. If he WAS drinking, and they let that slide, then it is hyprocritical.

  14. Jesse – he meant the “FSM Media”

    Actaully, apparently, no one meant FSM Media or MSM media. No one said MSM media, unless Jacob’s already gotten revisionist with his post.

  15. Evan,

    The significant difference isn’t the amount, it’s the process of going about acquiring them. Continuing to get a prescription written and filled after you no longer need it is somewhat different from the doctor shopping and use of intermediaries Limbaugh undertook.

    “Now, are you going to actually try to tell me that drunk #2 is worse because he had a stash of booze at home?” No, I’m going to tell you Drunk #1 is worse because he hurt someone. Tell you what, I’ll give you the damage to Kennedy’s own car.

    “the point is that he got out of having to give a breath test by claiming that he was on prescription drugs.” Which we now know is true – he was on prescription drugs.

  16. Remind me to change my name to Kennedy before running for office.

    Is it possible that drugs were not a big deal for Limbaugh, and even he thought it would be “bad form” to come out for legalization after he started pill popping?

    When assessing an accusation against a Kennedy, the likelihood that it is “false” is something considerably less than 1. Not because there is no motive for false accusations, but simply because the ground is so very fertile.

  17. The war between liberal hypocrisy and conservative hypocrisy HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN!!!

    Begun, this Oxycodone war has.

  18. “For fun, let’s pick another two for comparison.”

    Al Franken and Sen. Rick Santorum

  19. “The significant difference isn’t the amount, it’s the process of going about acquiring them. Continuing to get a prescription written and filled after you no longer need it is somewhat different from the doctor shopping and use of intermediaries Limbaugh undertook.”

    If your measure of judgment here is how badly each offender has run afoul of the beaurocracy, then, sure, Rush is your man. However, Jacob Sullum was crystal clear that that was not the measure of judgment he was using in the blog entry above. He said, “Be that as it may, what Patrick Kennedy did last week was worse, in terms of its potential impact on other people, than anything Rush Limbaugh has been accused of.” [boldface mine]

    There’s two ways of looking at how to judge the actions of offenders of the law—one is how much they offend the letter of the law, the other is how much they put others in danger. Jacob was clear on which way he was judging them—all you did was switch the direction of the debate to make the democrat look worse, and the GOP mouthpiece look worse. Not surprising coming from someone who is frequently a liberal apologist—but don’t try to act as if you’ve got some kind of logically sound argument to make that counters Jacob’s. All you did was change the terms of the argument to fit your judgement. Yipee. Good job.

  20. [edit]

    “make the democrat look worse” = “make the democrat look better

    [/edit/

  21. Evan,

    Limbaugh made his housekeeper act as an intermediary in the conduct of a felony. How’s that for involving other people?

    Maybe you could argue the facts? Instead of deciding I have to be wrong because of my party registration?

    Actually, if you could do that, I probably would have seen evidence of it by now.

  22. Okay, Limbaugh is a hypocrite and Kennedy is….well…a Kennedy with all the indulgence and special treatment that entails. Book em both, Danno.

  23. Joe, you’re obstinately missing Evan’s point of WHICH MAN’S ACTIONS POSE A BIGGER THREAT. Sorry for the caps but you clearly keep missing it based on my readings of your posts.

    Limbaugh’s actions were unlawful. So were Kennedy’s. But driving like a loon hopped on on (fill in the blank) pose a bigger threat to human safety.

  24. Simon9,

    I’m not missing that point. I’m responding to it by pointing out that engaging in wide-ranging fraud, and drawing other people into it, to acquire drugs illegally poses its own set of threats.

    And, as Jersey pointed out, Limbaugh was clearly driving impaired as well – we would have to, given what’s come out about his use.

  25. Can you imagine the impact if Rush Limbaugh came out and said something like “I am adamantly opposed to those drugs currently illegal. These cause a great deal of harm in my opinion. However the way we fight those drugs causes more harm than if we treated it as a medical issue regarding a legal product.”

    Ok, it’s just a fantasy I’m sure. But you’ve got the power Rush!!! If you are reading this becaue an intern of yours or something googled for your name to make sure nothing scurrilously bad was being said about you, I hope you do some research and look into whether it makes more sense to focus on harm reduction than a vain attempt to “win” the war on drugs with a “zero tolerance” approach. If you were an urban black or if your addiction of choice was on the wrong list you’d be looking at an automatic life sentence right now for possesion with intent to sell. Would that be justice towards you?

  26. “Be that as it may, what Patrick Kennedy did last week was worse, in terms of its potential impact on other people, than anything Rush Limbaugh has been accused of”

    Is that so? I don’t know Kennedy’s voting record (and I don’t really feel like reviewing it) but all he did was put a handful of people in danger. A car crash can only kill/maim so many.

    Rush, on the other hand, has a 20 million individual audience, many of whom are brainless and treat his word like gospel. His anti-liberty rantings cause a lot of people, I’m sure, to forward anti-liberty causes than otherwise would if he didn’t. Kennedy put a few people’s lives in danger. Limbaugh has contributed to the loss of countless people’s lives/liberty over the years.

    Surely someone here will lambast me for trying to make Rush responsible for the actions of his many, admittedly ignorant, disciples. I know that what I’ve just said may reek of nanny-state “I know what’s better for you”-ism. But think about it. Who has really committed the worse sin: A guy who made a foolish and irresponsible decision one night, or a guy who’s repeatedly called for the draconian punishment of mere drug users, even after being called out for the same behavior?

  27. Well, joe, would you rather get smacked by Patrick Kennedy’s car in downtown DC, or be asked to buy pills on pain of losing your housekeeping job?

    I know which I would choose.

  28. joe,

    Even setting aside RC’s valid point, you’re ignoring the fact that beaucratic rules are still at the heart of whatever trouble Rush may have “drawn” others into. I don’t think this is a debate, or at least shouldn’t be, of who is a worse person in general, Rush or Kennedy. If the debate is to have any meaning, it should be over which person actually did something that should be a concern to others.

    Now, whether driving under the influence should be illegal even if your driving is perfectly fine is a debate we’ve had before and probably needn’t get into now. Hopefully you’ll at least admit that losing control of one’s car reflects a more tangible threat to others than theoretically driving under the influence but no one knows for sure cause your driving was fine. Any chance?

  29. RCD, I couldn’t imagine anything, even the 9th plane of hell, being worse than working for Limbaugh.

    JMJ

  30. Isn’t it just possible that Limbaugh is a better driver-under-the-influence than Kennedy?

  31. On the question of what evidence there is to suggest that any of Kennedy’s pills were obtained illegally, I’d say roughly the same amount of evidence there is to suggest that Limbaugh ever drove while impaired, as JMJ suggested. That is to say, none at all.

    Andy,

    “Limbaugh has contributed to the loss of countless people’s lives/liberty over the years.” I’m no Rush fan, but let’s reign in the hyperbole a little, okay. Rush’s audience listens to him because he confirms things they already believe. The suggestion that he has contributed more to the War On Drugs than, for example, someone with actual legislative authority, is ridiculous. I haven’t the energy to look into Kennedy’s voting record either, but the fact that he is in office means the chance that he has been an advocate of sensible drug policy is vanishingly small.

  32. Different Anon,

    It’s funny. There’s inference and evidence and yet the line between the two, like most things, is not quite that solid.

    Let me put it this way:

    Given the amount of pills Rush was taking, and that Rush apparently does drive, only a drooling, screaming, insane idiot would think that he did not drive under the influence.

    JMJ

  33. andy,

    Yes Rush’s anti-liberty words cause harm. But so do Kennedy’s anti-liberty votes. I think voting and causing harm is worse than helping people to wish they could be the one voting and causing harm.

  34. I want to know who paid for Rush’s deafness and its treatment. Wouldn’t be surprised if those costs got passed along to the premiumpayers at Rush’s insurance company. If this is the case, then Limbaugh is the bigger menace because he cost more people more money.

  35. hj0,

    It’s not clear that Rush does “have the power”. Going by the numbers, Rush does his job well. However, how much of that can be explained by telling people what they want to hear? How much of his success can be explained by him avoiding telling people things they don’t want to hear? I don’t know the answers to those questions, I don’t follow his career or listen to his show.

    He’s an “entertainer.” He may shape people’s opinions, but there may be a much greater limit than appears. I’m with you, it would be nice for Rush to speak out. However, if he believes it would injure his career, I don’t think it’s likely.

  36. JMJ,

    Using your reasoning, it would follow that he would have had some sort of traffic infraction at some point, you know, given the amount of pills Rush was taking, and that Rush apparently does drive. Only a drooling, screaming, insane idiot would think otherwise.

  37. Well, Rep. Kennedy isn’t liberty-lover’s best friend in Congress, but he’s better than most. Take a look here: (sorry, don’t know how to hyperlink)

    http://www.vote-smart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=CNIP8184&type=category&category=Drug%2BIssues&go.x=10&go.y=6

    And I’ll repeat. Kennedy is one of what, 455 people in the House? His vote is relatively insignificant. Who even knew he existed before recently? I bet outside of his state and Kennedy-family-whores not too many.

    Rush influences a HUGE number of people every day. Even if his influence is only indirect, and Kennedy’s direct, I don’t think it’s saying too much to say Rush has a bigger effect. Yeah, he may not have a huge effect on any given person, but many respect him, and we tend to give a lot of credence to those we respect. Do the math.

  38. Differentbutexactlythesameasalogiclessdittohead,

    People get away with shit all the time.

    JMJ

  39. “Limbaugh made his housekeeper act as an intermediary in the conduct of a felony. How’s that for involving other people?”

    But nobody was really putting anyone in harm’s way against their involuntarily, were they?

    I’m not saying Rush is a saint—never was—but you’re trying to equate breaking a bunch of beaurocratic rules with putting other drivers at direct risk of bodily harm, or even death, without their permission or even knowledge. And unless Rush forced his housekeeper to do anything at gunpoint, then your comparison is way off.

    “Maybe you could argue the facts? Instead of deciding I have to be wrong because of my party registration?”

    I didn’t say you had to be wrong, just that you were, and it didn’t surprise me. Two very different things. You’re right about alot of stuff, joe, but you are wrong about this. And I have failed to see you bring up any “facts” that have proven anything but that Rush was a dick to involve his housekeeper. And, again, if you think that “demanding”, but not forcing, your housekeeper to take part in your illegal scheme is the same as taking a bunch of drugs and driving around, well, I don’t know what else there is to say to you.

    “engaging in wide-ranging fraud, and drawing other people into it, to acquire drugs illegally poses its own set of threats.”

    Lots of things pose their own sets of threats, joe, but, once again, you’re being disingenuous to equate this with what Kennedy did.

    “Limbaugh was clearly driving impaired as well – we would have to, given what’s come out about his use.”

    That’s speculation backed up by no real proof. It’s a good guess, but nothing more—if you can come up with real proof – aka FACTS – then I’ll hand this one to you. Until then, until you have more than just speculation regarding Rush driving under the influence, I’ll reserve judgment on that particular area.

  40. Doesn’t anybody but me realize we need fire or acid to overcome the troll’s regeneration? Criminy, folks, doesn’t somebody have a torch or something? And you call yourselves adventurers, for shame.

  41. Anyone who thinks Rush was not driving impaired is clinically retarded.

    JMJ

  42. *Brandishes torch menacingly at JMJ*

  43. AAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!! RRRRRRRR!!!!!

    JMJ

  44. Anyone who uses the surname “Jersey McJones” is a half-witted populist troll who likes to use logical fallacies as primary arguments in debate.

  45. “RCD, I couldn’t imagine anything, even the 9th plane of hell, being worse than working for Limbaugh.”

    How about being Anton Newcombe’s guitar tech?

  46. RCD, I couldn’t imagine anything, even the 9th plane of hell, being worse than working for Limbaugh.

    I dunno, I’d rather work for [insert partisan blowhard of choice here] than be crippled in a car accident.

    But that’s just me, I suppose.

  47. Apologies to all. As an infrequent commenter, I was unfamiliar with JMJ’s troll status. I’ll stop poking it.

  48. I find the arc this whole debate has taken over the last few comment threads to be pretty amusing:

    “Was Patrick Kennedy intoxicated when he crashed the car?” becomes “What was Patrick Kennedy intoxicated on when he crashed the car?” becomes becomes “Is Patrick Kennedy’s behavior worse than Rush Limbaugh’s?” becomes “Who’s a greater menance to society overall, Patrick Kennedy or Rush Limbaugh?” becomes “Was Patrick Kennedy more intoxicated than Rush Limbaugh would have been while driving during his pill-poppin’ prime when he crashed the car?” becomes “Would you rather work for Rush Limbaugh or be hit by Patrick Kennedy’s car?”

    Still, we’ve overlooked so many aspects of this:

    -Could Patrick Kennedy’s car have held all the pills Rush Limbaugh consumed?
    -If Patrick Kennedy’s car hit a throughly pilled-up Limbaugh, would Limbaugh feel pain?
    -What happen if Limbaugh and Kennedy ended up going to the same rehab center?
    And
    -Who would you rather make out with: Rush Limbaugh or Patrick Kennedy’s car (post-accident)?

    I’m sure JMJ has thoughts on all of them!

  49. I doubt there was ever any truth to the stories of Limbaugh’s drugs, his supposed deafness, or his supposed cochlear implant. I think they were all publicity stunts — quite successful ones that boosted his ratings.

    There being no public disclosure of the official evidence against him, now we’ll never know.

  50. Okay, they both suck.

    Put them both in a cage and let the match begin!

  51. -Could Patrick Kennedy’s car have held all the pills Rush Limbaugh consumed?

    Not on your life.

  52. What’s weird is that a lot of people here apparently think that Oxycontin and Vicodin would “impair” someone. These aren’t benzos or barbituates. If you’re a regular Vicodin user, popping some Vicodin doesn’t destroy your motor skills or reaction times — in fact, as most users and addicts will tell you, it brings a focus and clarity. And not a “boy, it sure FELT like I had more focus” kind of thing, as with cocaine, etc.

    It’s doubtful that Limbaugh was going around in some kind of muddled haze during the years he was on opiates. In fact, it’s very likely he felt at his best.

    That’s why the damned things make for such a thorny addiction, because you never really “hit bottom” unless you run out of cash to buy them.

  53. (Or get “busted” by the nannies.)

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